We’ve talked the Michelins plenty in the recent Fooditor Radio podcast, so I won’t do so here, except to link to some other morning-after commentary. First up, Phil Vettel, who compares it to his predictions (which were more conservative, and thus more accurate, than in past years) and elicits some insight from Michelin’s Michael Ellis that, basically, you need not apply if you don’t fit their idea—or stereotype—of the midwest: “I think Michelin has a notion of Chicago ‘terroir,’ and restaurants that fit that definition have a much greater chance of catching the inspectors’ collective eye.”

Then in Crain’s, Peter Frost looks at how much impact the Michelin stars really have, and finds at least one chef who really did see a benefit: “‘After we got that second star last year, it’s like somebody hit a switch,’ says Ryan McCaskey, chef and owner of South Loop’s fine-dining Acadia. Business at the tasting menu-only restaurant is up more than 45 percent for the year, he says, largely due to the bump from a second Michelin star. ‘It brought in a lot of people—more international diners, more travelers and even more locals—who were curious about what we were doing down here.’”


More aware of what’s really going on in Chicago than Michelin, for sure, the Jean Banchet Awards released their nominees. Restaurant of the year nominees are Blackbird, EL Ideas, Schwa and Sepia, while the new restaurant of the year candidates are The Loyalist, Monteverde, Oriole and Roister. (The distinction between the categories is now defined—new restaurants must be under two years old, and restaurant of the year must be at least two years old.) Chef of the year is an interesting list—Andrew Brochu (Roister) and Sarah Grueneberg (Monteverde) are obvious picks, John Manion (El Che Bar) a little more unexpected, but Gene Kato for Sumi Robata Bar is a left field pick of someone who’s been doing high quality work mostly under the radar. (Check out Victoria Kato’s video of her telling chef Gene about the nominations—it’s pretty funny.)

There are equally unexpected choices in other categories, including Bill Montagne and Jennifer Kim of Snaggletooth as rising chef of the year co-nominees; Snaggletooth and Sumi Robata Bar also turn up on the best neighborhood restaurant list along with Arbor and Owen & Engine. In a new category this year, best alternative restaurant, an underground dining experience (Claudia) is up against two food trucks (Tamale Spaceship and Happy Lobster) and Nomad, which bakes pizzas from a rolling oven at the Green City Market. The winners will be announced in January; here’s the list of nominees.


Mike Sula administers one to NY import The Little Beet Table over its mostly vegetarian-food: “Cauliflower seems to be a vegetal panacea for the low-carb, gluten-free set, and with good reason. It’s a great vegetable, delicious in so many ways, which is why Little Beet Table’s version is so perplexing. They seemed to have found the one unappealing method of preparing the lovable crucifer: hummus posing as Vegenaise. Showered with popcorn and pepitas and served with thick wedges of bread, it’s a grayish-tan slick of something you’d take a wide berth from if you saw it on the sidewalk.” It only gets harsher from there…


There’s more promising veggie cuisine at Bad Hunter, according to Amber Gibson in a profile at Chicagoist: “There are no faux meats here. Executive Chef Daniel Snowden eschews seitan nuggets and vegan ‘chorizo’ for boldly dressed veggies, fungi and legumes that won’t weigh you down the way a hunk of foie does. To be clear, this is not a vegetarian restaurant. You can get fish—delicately smoked sablefish over beet kvass cream or a simple Spanish mackerel fillet a la plancha—and heck, even steak skewers to appease die-hard red meat eaters. However, even the staunchest carnivores can get onboard with Meatless Monday when presented with meaty maitake mushrooms tossed in a thick squash purée and topped with a shaved salad of raw butternut squash, almonds and ricotta.”


The 80s nostalgia runs rampant at The Stop Along, an 80s-themed pizza parlor, and in Michael Nagrant’s review which namechecks lots of 80s pop culture before getting to the pizza: “Nostalgia aside, one of the reasons you’ll enjoy your visit is that the pizza—a refined New York-style slice—is top-notch. I say refined because while the long, thin, triangular crust with puffy edges has a kinship to legendary New York parlors like John’s Pizzeria of Bleecker Street or Patsy’s Pizzeria, it also has integrity and a satisfying chew that’s reminiscent of a great Neapolitan pie. There’s no tip sag or pool of grease.” Coming on the heels of Saved By the Max, will it be a hit? Well, stranger things have happened.


A Tribune article asks, “Food prices are falling, so why isn’t the price of your favorite restaurant meal?” There’s a decent look at how increased to-go dinner choices in grocery stores are affecting restaurants, though as often with economic pieces in the Trib, it doesn’t dig too deeply into stats that might throw a different light on things (how do we know that grocery sales are taking away restaurant business rather than replacing home cooked meals, for instance?) But that’s not all that bugged mfk owner Scott Worsham, who said on Facebook:

“Do I have to explain how a retail food chain’s power to buy in bulk, and ability to lock in the price for the next year, differs wildly from the daily, market-driven price of food that a restaurant pays, not to mention that the better restaurants buy produce and meat from small, local farms, where the price is even higher, are absolutely TWO DIFFERENT THINGS; or, how a fast food concept’s economies of scale are wildly different than a regular restaurant’s economics, to a business reporter from the Tribune, just so people don’t have to see this clickbait, completely misleading headline? Because I will totally do that. #TroncFail


Lisa Shames finds Rick Bayless’s customary precision in full force at Leña Brava: “Octopus may be a ubiquitous menu item these days, but the one at Leña Brava from the Oven and Hearth section reminds one of how great it can be when done right. By quickly searing the cephalopod in a hot steel pan placed directly on the embers, it retains its tenderness but also has a welcome bit of chew to it. ‘Mushy octopus drives me crazy,” says Bayless.” (CS)


African food remains largely unknown to those who don’t already know about it, so it’s nice to read this DNA Info piece about a guy who just opened a Senegalese restaurant focusing on his home island of Gorée: “When he brings it out on a plate, it looks less like a stew and more like a multicourse meal of all of the vegetables surrounding a pile of savory rice topped by a fried fish and little pink shrimp. It’s both earthy and fishy, savory and a little spicy — a balance that appears to have been achieved through another set of winks and whispers of ‘secret.’” It’s in Kenwood, in the former Zaleski & Horvath space on 47th—owner Adama Ba opened it when the space opened up next to the tailoring shop he already owns.


The Tribune does the best job to date of digging into Lao Sze Chuan owner Tony Hu’s financial chicanery, and it’s worth reading in full, but this paragraph had some unintended irony: “‘While (Hu) has for years held himself out as a model civic leader with appointments to some of the city’s most powerful committees and charities, he was in fact cheating out [sic] state and city government, depriving them of precious funds at a time when vital social services faced drastic cuts,’ wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney William Ridgway, who is seeking up to about 4 1/2 years in prison when Hu is sentenced later this month.” Whoa, he kept money out of the clutches of Rahm and Madigan? Are they trying to get him a sentence, or a medal?


When Old Town’s Mexican spot Salpicon opened 22 years ago, Frontera was only 7 years old—and co-owner Priscilla Satkoff had been Rick Bayless’ personal assistant. Now it’s closing and the Satkoffs are moving to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Bill Daley pays tribute.


You can’t tell the players without a program, and Sarah Freeman fields ten bartenders for 2016 for Thrillist, answering questions like who that other guy besides Ben Schiller is at The Sixth.


Diana Davila, chef of short-lived Cantina 1910, has a restaurant coming at last: 40-seat Mi Tocaya will open in the Logan Square space occupied by the somewhat ill-starred Catalpa Kitchen. Eater and DNA Info both have details, but the best quote comes from Eater: “‘I love making food pretty, but it’s really about sharing the culture,’ Dávila said. She joked and added: ‘I’m not deconstructing a ***kin’ taco.’”


Or so claims Sandwich Tribunal.


David Hammond chats with oyster biographer Rowan Jacobsen about the much-loved bivalve.


When the kids were of a certain age, Ceres’ Table in its old location was a frequent stop—Italian food they’d eat and I could respect, and the big space always seemed half-empty on weeknights, so kids could be themselves (within limits). So it makes no sense that I took forever to get to the new location in Lakeview, which has been there over two years. Anyway, I don’t really remember the food at the old one by now, but I liked a lot of things just fine at the new one—orrechiete in a tomatoey sauce best among the pastas, some nice bitter fall veggies, and a handsomely grilled whole branzino. The restaurant’s still good and the kids behaved, mostly. Nothing’s changed.